“Getting an Indian passport is the only solution to our woes”

“Getting an Indian passport is the only solution to our woes”

NEW DELHI, June 20, 2014:

“Getting an Indian passport is the only solution to the problems faced by all the Afghan refugees that began over two decades back when we migrated from our homeland in Afghanistan,” said sexagenarian Hardit Singh Nagpal, a migrant Sikh from Kabul, who fled to India with some members (one of his son managed to go to Europe) of his family in 1992.

Mr. Singh’s sentiment is shared by the dozen-odd men and women present in the hall of the three-storey Khalsa Diwan Welfare Society (KDWS) building – home to a school and vocational training centre for Afghan refugee children and women.

“The problem of renewing the staying visa every two years must end. We have been living in this country for over two decades now. Had we been living in some western country, we would have got citizenship till now,” said Tej Kaur, a mother of three who came to India in 1992 along with thousands of Punjabi speaking Sikhs and Hindus.

Mr. Nagpal and several other Afghan refugees are facing another problem. While they were lucky enough to get Indian passports, their immediate family members could not do so. Mr. Singh got Indian citizenship in 2007, but his wife is still awaiting hers.

“My son is a British national now. He wants to take us there, but I can’t leave my wife here,” said Mr. Singh.


Recalling the days when they reached Delhi, Mr. Singh said around 50,000 Afghans had come then. While several returned, some who managed to get Indian passport in subsequent years have migrated to other countries. Those who chose to stay here, Mr. Singh said, have been forced to live in a “meethi jail (sweet prison)”.

“The financial help from UN agencies stopped after 2009. While language has not been a problem for us, the biggest problem is having an identity. To get the visa renewed, all members of family, be they be bed-ridden, elderly or school-going children have to be present at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in R.K. Puram. It is inhuman,” said Ms. Kaur.

While the KDWS, which thrives on contributions from the Afghan refugees, is doing its bit, the members want the Indian authorities to grant them the country’s citizenship, which would be a gateway for them to move towards a better life.


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